In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves.
Thinking positively can have a tremendous effect on our lives. By eliminating negative thoughts, we’re able to at least influence the part of our lives that we can control: our own mindset.
In this article, you will learn how to think positive and ditch the negative thoughts. Before we dive into the step-by-step guide on how to do so, I’d like to share with you how I learned to thinking positive the hard way…
At the start of 2019, I was quite stressed at work with multiple tight deadlines. I was constantly worried and the stress was affecting my ability to sleep. Numerous nights in a row, I would experience insomnia, where I had a staring contest with the ceiling because my mind would simply not stop thinking about all the stressful things I had to deal with.
I eventually got up and wrote everything down. Every single thought that rushed through my head, I wrote it down in detail. This allowed me to do a couple of things:
- It made everything relatable
- It showed me that every obstacle that was on my mind was not that big on its own. I was only stressed because these obstacles were big in numbers, while independently, these obstacles were just minor things that I could overcome.
- It allowed me to think positively about these little obstacles and how I was going to conquer them one at a time.
- Writing down my negative emotions allowed me to wipe them clean from my mind. Think of it as a laptop: after having browsed for a long time, I was able to clear my RAM and start fresh. My mind was finally clear from negative thoughts.
After doing this, I was finally able to sleep, and the next day, I slowly started to tackle these small obstacles.
This is just one example of how I manage to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts from dominating my mind.
Here are 4 actionable steps you can follow in order to think positive:
Step 1: Turn Every Obstacle into Smaller “Challenges”
In the intro, you read that I was stressed because I was worrying about a big number of small obstacles as opposed to one big devastating obstacle. Writing down my worries allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
As a result, I observed my problems as single challenges that I could overcome.
When you’re currently surrounded with negativity – whether that’s because of a stressful project or problems in a relationship – you should try to dissect that challenge into different sub-challenges.
For example, if you have to deliver a huge presentation at work on Friday, try to think of this big task as multiple smaller tasks:
- Find sources to support your presentation
- Think of interesting anecdotes, introductions or examples
- Create a general outline of your presentation
- Complete the first 5 slides
- Add a small video or puzzle to your presentation
- Finish the presentation
- Think of a keyword for each slide to remember what you have to say
- Practice the presentation in order to finish it within 30 minutes
- Deliver a great presentation
While this example may not be relevant to you, the message is all the same. You can tackle pretty much any obstacle – no matter how big it may seem – as long as you take it one step at the time.
That’s how you can eliminate negative thoughts such as “I can never do that” or “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’ll never reach that goal” from controlling your actions.
Take it one step at the time and pretty much any goal becomes manageable.
Step 2: Realize That Positive Thoughts Can Be a Choice
Happiness is determined as follows:
- 50% is determined by genetics
- 10% is determined by external factors
- 40% is determined by your own outlook
This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:
Your happiness can be influenced by your own thoughts.
Even though there are things in life that we cannot control, we can still often control how we react to these things.
In that sense, we might not get to control 100% of our happiness but we can still influence a big chunk of it.
I believe we can learn to influence the 40% of our happiness that is determined by our own personal outlook. Happiness is a choice, and you can learn to recognize these situations on your own.
How does this help you to think positive and eliminate negative thoughts?
Well, because this shows you that it pays off to learn how to think positively in difficult situations.
By developing this skill, you can really increase happiness in your life. It is definitely not always easy, but you can change a bad day into a good one just by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.
This is the reason why I love this quote of Winston Churchill:
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Step 3: Spend Time with the People That Have a Positive Influence on Your Life and Be Grateful for Them
Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your life.
I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.
You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness. These people can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.
Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your challenges with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do to initiate positive thoughts; and that’s to be grateful that these people are in your life:
- Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
- Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
- Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
- Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.
Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help you in thinking more positively and eliminating negative thoughts?
Well, the answer is simple.
Being grateful forces you to think of the good things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism, instead of negativity. People that actively practice gratitude are much better able to deal with toxic emotions.
So what do you have to do?
Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life.
To help inspire you to feel more grateful, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.
Step 4: Don’t Give up After a Setback
So you had a bad day last week? Or maybe a terrible week in which you allowed negative thoughts to control your life? Who cares!
We are only human, so we’re bound to experience a day of negativity every once in a while. It’s important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences negative thoughts in their life. Eternal happiness does not exist. Even the happiest man alive has experienced negativity and sadness on some days.
What you need to when this inevitably happens to you:
- Don’t let this set you back.
- Don’t interpret it as a failure
- Don’t let it stop you from trying to think positive
You see, even the most optimistic person experiences negativity on occasion. Sure, we can try to be as positive as possible every day, but we have to accept that negativity is something that we have to deal with from time to time.
So what if you’re engulfed in negative thoughts today? Screw it and know that tomorrow is a new day and that you can try to work on this again.
Take a look at this article and learn about Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).
In the end, there’s no arguing that we cannot control 100% of our happiness. We can’t stand in front of a mirror, repeat the words “I am thinking happy thoughts only” ninety-nine times and accept to suddenly be happy.
It doesn’t work like that.
However, there are a number of things we can do to at least improve our mindset in the situations where we do get to choose how we react to external factors.
I hope that you have a better idea of what you can do in these situations. Sooner than later, you will influence your own mindset to think positively and to eliminate negative thoughts.
More About Positivity And Happiness
- How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up
- How to Change Your Mindset for a Happy And Successful Life
- 10 Practical Tips To Make Positive Thinking Your Habit
Featured photo credit: Lucas Marconnet via unsplash.com